Limitation of Liability Hearings


Ismay Must Stay, Senators Summon Him to Washington

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

21 April 1912

Other White Star Line Officials and Many of Titanic's Crew to Tell of Disaster

New York, April 20 -- J. Bruce Ismay and other officials of the White Star Line were subpennaed (sic) today by the Senate investigating committee to appear before it in Washington Monday. The investigation in New York was concluded today.

Just before the committee investigating the Titanic disaster met today an invalid chair was wheeled into the committee room. In it was Harold Bride, the assistant wireless operator on the Titanic, whose feet were wrenched and badly injured when he was crushed on the life raft that picked him up from the wreckage.

He was sallow and hollow-cheeked and lay propped up with pillows, awaiting his call to the witness chair.

Immediately behind Bride came Ismay, president of the International Mercantile Marine, and P.A.S. Franklin, vice-president of the organization.

Ismay announced before the inquiry began that he had given instructions to all the lines of International Mercantile Marine which include the White Star, the Leyland, the Atlantic Transport and the Doninion Lines, to equip all steamers with sufficient lifeboats and raft boats for every passenger and every member of the crew without regard to government regulations.

Senator Reed at Hearing.

Senator Reed of Missouri took a seat with Senators Smith and Newlands. The first witness was Thomas Cottam, the wireless operator on the Carpathia, who was recalled to the stand. Senator Smith sought to clear up the messages that had passed between the Carpathia and the Titanic.

"What was the last message sent to the Titanic?" asked Senator Smith.

"We sent it word to have its lifeboats ready," said the witness; "that our lifeboats were ready and that we were steaming to them as fast as we could."

Senator Smith asked questions to discover whether any official had sought to keep back the news of the disaster.

"Did you send any message that all the passengers had been saved or that the Titanic was being towed to Halifax?"

"No, sir."

"Nor anything like it?"

"No, sir."

"Did you know such reports were being published to the world?"

"No, sir."

"If the White Star line sent a message Monday reading: 'Representative J.H. Hughes, Huntington, W. Va. Titanic proceeding to Halifax, passengers will probably land there Monday. All safe,' they did not obtain the information on which that was based from you?"


"Nor did you know that it was obtained from any other operator on the Carpathia?"


Senator Smith asked the witness if he had received any messages from the time the Carpathia left the scene of the disaster until it reached New York.

"No, sir," he said. "I reported the entire matter myself to the steamship Baltic at 10:30 o'clock Monday morning. I told them we had been to the wreck and had picked up as many passengers as we could.

Cottam repeated his testimony of yesterday and said he had been without sleep, throughout Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and until late Wednesday afternoon. Senator Smith sought to have the witness designate the exact hour when he was relieved by Operator Bride, who had been taken aboard the Carpathia from the Titanic.

Lost Track of the Days

"I don't know sir," said Cottam in extenuation. "I was up continuously and I lost track of the hours and days. I had from eight to ten hours sleep from the time we left the wreck until we arrived in New York."

"Did Bride do any sending druing that time?" Senator Smith asked.

"Yes sir. He sent the list of the third-class passengers to the cruiser Chester."

"Any other message?"

"Several, I don't remember what they were. The records are on the Carpathia."

"Did you or Bride send any message declaring that the Titanic was being towed into Halifax?"

"No sir," said the witness, with emphasis.

Cottam, after rehearsing again the final messages exchanged between the Titanic and Carpathia, was excused. He is to be recalled.

Titanic Operator Testifies

Senator Smith then called what he evidently expected to be one of the most important witnesses, Harold S. Bride, the sole surviving wireless operator of the Titanic.

"Contrary to the usual procedure," said Senator Smith, "I must place you under oath."

The witness, hand uplifted, listened while the Senator